Friday, January 18, 2008

The D & J Show

by Cathy Anderson Corn

A breathtaking scene awaited me from Dad's dock on Lake Pierce, near Lake Wales, Florida. To my left, light shimmered on the water and danced with pure joy. Graceful birds--white egrets, a great blue heron on the dock next door--added to the portrait. The breezes teased my hair and sun warmed me as I turned back and barely glimpsed the roof of the ranch house Dad built nearly thirty years ago. His yard rivals any nature preserve, with huge oaks towering above encircling banks of giant philodendrons. The Spanish moss hung slack and gray and spooky from the trees.

A power spot, a special place, and a tribute to Dad and Mom's life there together. But all that was changing. I'd been denying it for several years.

Mom and Dad were getting old.

It hit me like a speeding semi truck, the revelation, a lightning realization. A no-brainer for anyone else other than their daughter and possibly the two sons. They're both 78, but the numbers can be deceiving. Their friends Charley (90) and Vera (86) go bowling and square dancing when they aren't traveling.

This descent into old age began two years ago when Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. He faithfully took his medications and focused on his illness, telling all who would listen, "I'm failing. I'm not much good any more."

You get what you focus on, yet he's still fairly mobile. He drove my mother crazy as he obsessed about his illness. I swear my mother's problems began so she could go down with the ship. They're rarely apart, like Siamese twins. If he was going to "fail," so was she. Her hip pain began last May and progressed to a total hip replacement this past December 12. Mom will ride along with Dad on the final roller coaster to the next adventure on the other side. At the rehab facility, Mom talked about living in a nursing home, an idea outlandish to her before.

So my trip a few weeks ago gave moral support to Mom and Dad as she transferred from hospital to a rehab facility. We fondly refer to them as D and J (Dale and Janice). Their exploits entertain and frustrate us as we attempt to help them on this last leg of their journey.

Last May I sent a gift card for Dad to buy a mobile phone; his muscles had locked trying to get out of his boat, and he stood frozen there until someone found him several hours later. A phone might have been nice. He announced to me he bought pants and tools with the card (what!). Then, when their new mini-van arrived, it had an Onstar phone. They were so excited about the phone, that I bit my tongue hard enough to leave scars.

So we call it the D & J Show and laugh instead of screaming. Of course there are lots more episodes.

Yes, the D & J Show's still playing, and we hope there'll be many more seasons to come. Dad's stopped talking about Parkinson's as he works at the rehab center every day, usually a 12-hour shift, attending to Mom and overseeing her care. He hasn't had much time to be sick himself.

So the scene from Dad's dock with life abundant says it all. Life goes on. And there's joy even in the trying times.

What are your stories of aging parents and how you cope or coped?


Anonymous said...

My mom and dad were 40 when I was born, so I was in my 30s when I went through the "adventures" you are talking about. What I remember most vividly is what a looney group of friends my mom had gathered around her! Especially her best friend Coreen, who decided that she wanted to receive the "closest to Erma" (my mom) award and I was her competition. She was really quite nasty to me in a way that, with the perspective of 15 years, is rather humorous because it was so absurd.

One of the funny stories is at Mom's memorial service I got up and spoke about how I got my name. As I was walking back to my seat Coreen said, "What you don't know, Tory, is that your mom almost named you Anemone Petunia." Crazy as she was, Coreen didn't made that one up! I just thank God I didn't get that moniker. Victoria Alice Butterworth is enough of a name to carry.

Annette said...

Anemone???? Oh, Tory, that is too funny. You are NOT an Anemone. Glad your mom came to her senses on that one.

Cathy, my dad, too, harped on the "I'm not good for anything anymore" bit. It was heartbreaking. Especially for the tough guy who always used to come to my rescue. In his last couple of years, he had to be completely taken care of and it devastated him. I only hope that with the Alzheimer's, he wasn't totally aware of it. Somehow, I sense that he was.

I've determined that it's hardest when both their body AND mind give out. My mom is struggling with her hip, too, but her mind is clear and she's a fighter, so I'm happy to say I think she's going to be around for quite a while yet (I hope). But Dad's mind and body went so that he couldn't walk, but didn't know it. Result: falls.

It is definitely hard when the child becomes the parent. Good luck with yours, Cathy

Joyce Tremel said...

It must be hard taking care of aging parents. Both of my parents died young. My dad at age 40 (I was 2) and my mom at age 56 (I was 19), so I'm not sure how I would deal with taking care of them now. I was just saying to Jerry last night that I would have loved to talk to my dad about WWII--he was in both the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.

My inlaws were much older when they died. Jerry's dad was in his eighties and died walking home from the doctor's office where he had just had a check up!

Tory, you are definitely NOT an Anemone!

Anonymous said...

This is the story of my current life. Best coping mechanism? Keeping your sense of humor.

ps. Yesterday, my mother was chased around the rehab room by a guy with Alzheimers, who wanted to "feel her muscles!"

Joyce Tremel said...

Nancy, I can picture that scene. You could probably use that in a book.

Tory, I forgot to mention that I was almost named "Gay." Mom put two names in a hat and picked "Joyce. " I'm not all that fond of my name, but it sure beats the alternative!

Anonymous said...

This week's "Mom" story, courtesy of my sister: early Sunday evening Pat phoned Mom, but no answer. Now, Mom had to be home...she broke her foot a couple weeks ago and doesn't venture out of her apt. She's 86 and has a heart problem, so not answering the phone is a cause for concern. When Pat finally got thru to Mom Monday, Mom's excuse for not answering the phone was revealed: seems the consumption of two cocktails (mai-tais no less) had caused her to "fall asleep" (her words; "passed out" I'd say!) on the living room chair. She eventually woke up and made it to bed, where she slept straight through the night, a rarity nowadays. Seems she's found the perfect sleeping aid. Sigh!

Tory, "Anenome" has a certain appeal. You could've always used a nickname, tho I'm not sure "Annie" or "Nome" fits you. I like Tory.

Annette said...

Nancy, I'm picturing Tim Conway chasing your mom. Sense of humor? Most definitely.

Mike, I can sympathize. I've discovered that a small glass of wine will knock me right out. I save that little secret to uninterrupted slumber only for when I most desperately need it.

As for names, had I been the first-born instead of my brother, I'd have been named Reva. Then after my elder sibling turned out to be a male, my aunt had a girl and stole my mom's name choice for her. So I would have been Reva had it not been for my theiving aunt.

Thanks, Aunt Kay!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm in the midst of "parent failure." My mother was sharp as a tack until she broke her leg in a fall last spring. She's gone downhill--and she's my Dad's primary caretaker. (He had a stroke three years ago and has congestive heart failure.) They depend on me a lot--and hate to bother my brother or my husband. Only I'm on deadline and struggling. They are not happy they've had to "inconvenience" someone other than me for the past couple of weeks.

"A son's a son 'til he takes a wife...a daughter's a daughter all her life."

Truer words were never spoken.

Anonymous said...

A Tory by any other name would smell as sweet, but we're glad "Tory" prevailed victoriously. I think I'll quit now.

It's therapeutic to hear all your aging parent stories. The alternative, losing them young like Joyce (Gay), wouldn't be much fun either.

Lorraine,it sounds like you're overburdened with parent care. I hope the others will take over some of it. Welcome to the blog.

Thanks for all your great and funny stories. Just imagine, Nancy, your mother can still attract men at her age. What a woman!

Anonymous said...

Well, her admirer is completely nuts, but you take your compliments wherever you can, right?

Anonymous said...

So delighted to come across this post as only this morning I learned that my father and his wife (his second, my mom died 17 years ago) are getting divorced. Wife is a neurotic nutcase. He's 86 and I hate to think of the turmoil he is going through. He'll be on his own, mentally sharp but frail. Hope I can convince him to move near one of his daughters but he is stubborn.